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between the cheats

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The man with sleepy eyes and the woman with the carnivorous mouth meet together for drinks, in a glassy glossy bar full of amiable patrons. The bar is all shadows and red and white, intimate as the inner chambers of a heart.

They talk about stars.

His fingers are wet from the slippery stem of his sweating glass; the impetus is something unspoken, a glance, a dare.

With absolute mildness and full deliberation he puts his hand up past the hem of her sensible skirt, disturbs the top of one nylon stocking from its place snug against her immaculate thigh.

He shifts toward her in the course of conversation (talk of comings and goings) and she mirrors it from the waist up, eyes tracking him easily like a snake's; he crosses his legs and brushes aside a paper napkin. His hand goes on, with her tacit permission. Slipping under the mere confection of nothings that comprises her knickers (like disturbing a wisp of smoke -- you couldn't cut them off, they'd melt away first) and tracing his fingertips through the soft candy cleft of her cunt (or its outmost extremities anyway, he's not risking past his first few phalanges just yet, until she shifts in her seat and her knees part the slightest bit further.

How immaculate she is -- a princess, highest tower optional.

If they're making amiable conversation at close range, discussing recent discoveries in her field, his lilting voice is low enough that she inclines her head to hear, his right hand drums on the tabletop

The action of his hand under her skirt is no longer a demure stroking outside but dipping in, between. He fingers her swiftly and deliberately and cruelly to distraction, even as the rest of her body language is as sexually accessible as an iceberg. She is manifestly untroubled, as innocent above the tabletop as if he hadn't touched her -- brushing her hair over her shoulder, smiling graciously at a drift of young men who pass them by in a herd of dark suits -- while all the while he is making her work and no one else is the wiser. Like an experiment -- he's done nothing wrong; has she? Like two terrible children, playing a game.

Jim Moriarty knows a great deal about acting. Her voice doesn't catch, her tone doesn't even rise except a sleepy sort of amusement uncoiling like a serpent. But the pink colour spreads from her sleepy pedigreed-cat eyes to her cheeks, her broad mouth flushes with blood. Her legs begin to tremble.

When she comes (when he permits her, or she allows him) she flutters against his fingers like a small creature dying, heart pumping its last in the slick darkness of the notch between her legs, and it's one of the lovelier things he's gotten to touch.

When he takes his hand away and adjusts his cuffs -- darting black eyes full of dares, and smiling a strange smile -- she is smiling as well, placid as a pedigreed cat. He reaches into his glass and plucks out an olive, sucks on his fingertips.

**

It's not an exchange. More of an investment. He'll get his, and she'll get hers, with interest. The red woman is reptilian, frigid, uncompromising; she is brilliant after the fashion of a deep-space anomaly, a splendid baroque madness concealed in a sector unglimpsed with the naked eye. She's a wicked witch. He doesn't flatter himself that he bears even a coincidental resemblance to her love-object, but the target of her full intellectual powers is a lucky man indeed. (Or woman, he supposes, perhaps they really are just alike. Both addicts, and her so much the better-adapted. Do sharks hunt sharks?)

One week: her high-heeled shoe grinds against his throat, and he pleads into a telephone for her, no blubbing. That's a familiar enough game, and yet somehow they always end up blubbing anyway, and she gets to give him the going-over of his life. He walks a bit funny for days, and she gets some lovely memories to rattle around in that opaque black-box brain of hers.

Or -- another time, another scene -- her cruel hard hand lands against his face with a satisfying heaviness, sends an electric jolt directly to his groin (figuratively speaking) and drives the irregular edges of his funny white teeth into the soft flesh of his cheek.


(Speak roughly to your little boy
and beat him when he sneezes:
he only does it to annoy
because he knows it teases.)

Ow.

Or she belts him with an electrical cord and leaves a rainbow spray of fantastic welts underneath all his clothes for weeks, sticky bruises that catch against designer cloth and keep him smarting. (From Her, with love.) From this he comes so hard that he's sure he's gone blind and she pats the back of his hand afterward, sympathetic with iodine and sticky gauze. That's the extent of gentle touch from her -- and why touch, why rub skins together and sweat and dribble when you can cut each other up with words? No "mistress", no "ma'am", no whip hand, she hurts him and hurts him until all the other words come pouring out -- quite delicately, it's like drilling holes in an eggshell with a needle until the yolk spills through.

It's not true information that he spills at her interrogation table -- or it was true for someone before it was wrung out of him, but playing fear from the other side of it is a slippery novelty, like being turned inside-out and upside-down. (He'll tell her anything! he'll tell her nothing, and call her all sorts of nasty names until she makes him very sorry indeed.) She turns him upside-down once, hangs him from an exposed pipe while she tickles him with live wires, but it only gives him a headache.

(Any table will do, for interrogation purposes; he finds that she favours the ones in hospitals, and in police stations.)

Not his usual number, no giggles to be found here, no sting of semen besides his own and no wicked surprises of mistaken identity. No sniper's lights, no scrape of beard. Their business dealings are all very very serious, and they are the highlights of his week when the old so-and-so is being a boring bastard.

Quite stimulating, really. Good company.